Apple Lawsuit over Security Checks Certified as Class Action

By Roy Maurer July 24, 2015

A federal court on July 16, 2015, certified the long-running lawsuit against Apple Inc. over security searches of workers’ bags as a class action. More than 12,400 current and former retail store workers are included in the suit.

The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California defined the class as “all Apple California nonexempt employees who were subject to the bag-search policy from July 25, 2009, to the present.”

Lawsuits certified as class actions allow plaintiffs to sue as a group, which generally gives them more leverage to negotiate a settlement.

Apple Store employees sued the company in 2013, alleging they should have been paid for time spent undergoing anti-theft searches at the end of their shifts. Each of the company’s 52 stores in the state of California performed employee bag searches at some point during the claim period, the court said.

According to the lawsuit, employees had to clock out and undergo a security search every time they left the store, including for meal breaks. Sometimes employees had to wait up to 20 minutes for a manager or security guard to perform the search, they claimed.

Plaintiffs described Apple’s policy of checking employees’ bags as “embarrassing” and “demeaning,” and said managers “are required to treat valued employees as criminals.”

Apple argued that searches took only “seconds” and that the suit didn’t deserve class-action status because not all store managers conducted bag searches.

On Dec. 23, 2014, the court dismissed the Apple employees’ Fair Labor Standards Act claims after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled last year in Integrity Staffing Solutions Inc. v. Busk that time spent in post-shift screening isn’t compensable. The court allowed the Apple workers to continue with their California state law wage claims.

“The compensability of employee time depended on the level of the employer’s control over its employees, rather than the mere fact that the employer required the employees’ activity,” the court said. It gave the example that time spent riding a company-provided bus to and from work was compensable if the company didn’t allow workers the option to transport themselves.

Roy Maurer is an online editor/manager for SHRM.

Follow him @SHRMRoy

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